Dornoch holds off Mindframe to win the 156th Belmont Stakes in an upset

Dornoch won the 156th running of the Belmont Stakes at Saratoga Race Course, holding off a late challenge from Mindframe down the final stretch.

Dornoch, which entered the race at 17-1 odds, is co-owned by former Dodgers outfielder Jayson Werth. It was the second Belmont Stakes win for jockey Luis Saez and the first Triple Crown race win for trainer Danny Gargan.

“He’s one of the top 3-year-olds in the country, and we’ve always thought it,” Gargan said. “We let him run his race and he won. If he gets to run, he’s always going to be tough to beat.”

Kentucky Derby runner-up Sierra Leone finished third and Honor Marie fourth.

Clearly there was no Triple Crown on the line at this year’s Belmont Stakes, but if the same horse had won the first two races there would have been a huge discussion about a possible Triple Crown containing an asterisk. The Belmont Stakes is usually a 1½-mile race, called the test of champions. It might be the only time in a horse’s life that they will run 1½ miles on the dirt.

With the race moving to Saratoga because of major construction at Belmont Park, the race was made 1¼ miles, the same distance as the Kentucky Derby. Since the circumference of Saratoga is smaller than it is at Belmont, the New York Racing Assn. decided to shorten the race so that the horses wouldn’t have to break on a turn.

The race will be at Saratoga next year, too.

While there were no California horses in the Belmont Stakes, Bob Baffert-trained horses made their mark in the undercard. National Treasure proved to be very dominant in winning the $1-million Metropolitan Mile by 6¼ lengths. The 4-year-old has clearly emerged as the best horse in Baffert’s barn with wins in last year’s Preakness Stakes and this year’s Pegasus World Cup. He was second in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Mile, losing by a nose to Cody’s Wish, who went on to win Horse of the Year.

Baffert was not in New York but stayed in Southern California.

“That was absolutely amazing,” said Jimmy Barnes, Baffert’s top assistant. “National Treasure was going super good going into this race and training very well. We just needed to get him out of the gate and point him in the right direction. He was getting heavy pressure early but it was no match for him. He put him away.”

The pressure was coming from Hoist to Gold, who finished third. White Abarrio, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic, was never a factor, finishing fifth in the six-horse race.

National Treasure had been off for 105 days since finishing fourth in the Saudi Cup in February. The colt paid $4.70 to win. Post Time finished second.

“He came back from Saudi in great shape and we just gave him plenty of time,” Barnes said. “The horse likes a lot of time between races.”

Baffert had two other horses on Saturday’s stakes-rich card. Prince of Monaco finished second in the $500,000 Woody Stephens Stakes at seven furlongs. Prince of Monaco was making his first start of the year after finishing fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 3.

He had rough start in Saturday’s race but might have been most impressive making up almost 14 lengths in the last three-eighths of a mile. He lost by half a length to Book ‘em Dano.

“The horse beside me stumbled out of [the gate] and hit my hind-end,” said jockey Flavien Prat, who also rode National Treasure. “I lost a couple of lengths there. After that we regrouped and he made a nice run.”

Imagination, coming off a disappointing seventh-place finish in the Preakness, was equally disappointing on Saturday, finishing seventh in the 11-horse race.

All three of the Baffert horses have the same core ownership group.

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